4th April, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘National Institute ranking framework’
(GS2: Issues related to Education)
Issue: The Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in Bengaluru was adjudged the overall best institution in the country by the Human Resource Development Ministry’s national ranking framework (NIRF). The premier healthcare institute All India Institue of Medical Science (AIIMS) Delhi was ranked number one institute under medical college category. Delhi University’s Miranda House was the best college and NLSIU-Bengaluru the best law school in the country.
The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was approved by the MHRD and launched by Honorable Minister of Human Resource Development on 29th September 2015.
This framework outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country. The methodology draws from the overall recommendations broad understanding arrived at by a Core Committee set up by MHRD, to identify the broad parameters for ranking various universities and institutions. The parameters broadly cover “Teaching, Learning and Resources,” “Research and Professional Practices,” “Graduation Outcomes,” “Outreach and Inclusivity,” and “Perception”.
‘Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)’
(GS3: International agreements)
Issue: The world’s chemical weapons watchdog said it would hold a meeting at Russia’s request on Wednesday to discuss Britain’s allegations that Moscow was behind the poisoning of an ex-spy in England.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is an intergovernmental organisation and the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on 29 April 1997. The OPCW, with its 192 member states, has its seat in The Hague, Netherlands, and oversees the global endeavor for the permanent and verifiable elimination of chemical weapons.
The organisation promotes and verifies the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction. Verification consists both of evaluation of declarations by member states and onsite inspections.
The organisation was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”.
The OPCW Member States share the collective goal of preventing chemistry from ever again being used for warfare, thereby strengthening international security. To this end, the Convention contains four key provisions:
- destroying all existing chemical weapons under international verification by the OPCW;
- monitoring chemical industry to prevent new weapons from re-emerging;
- providing assistance and protection to States Parties against chemical threats; and
- Fostering international cooperation to strengthen implementation of the Convention and promote the peaceful use of chemistry.
- The mission of the OPCW is to implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
The Australia Group is a multilateral export control regime (MECR) and an informal group of countries (now joined by the European Commission) established in 1985 (after the use of chemical weapons by Iraq in 1984) to help member countries to identify those exports which need to be controlled so as not to contribute to the spread of chemical and biological weapons.
The group, initially consisting of 15 members, held its first meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in September 1989. With the incorporation of India on January 19, 2018, it now has 43 members, including Australia, the European Commission, all 28 member states of the European Union, Ukraine, and Argentina. The name comes from Australia’s initiative to create the group. Australia manages the secretariat.
The initial members of the group had different assessments of which chemical precursors should be subject to export control. Later adherents initially had no such controls. Today, members of the group maintain export controls on a uniform list of 54 compounds, including several that are not prohibited for export under the Chemical Weapons Convention, but can be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons. In 2002, the group took two important steps to strengthen export control.
‘Purchasing Managers Index’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India’s manufacturing sector expanded at its weakest pace in five months in March as order and production growth moved at a slower pace and firms slowed hiring. The Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), fell from 52.1 in February to a five-month low of 51.0 in March, indicating the slowest improvement in operating conditions recorded by the survey since last October.
The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is an indicator of the economic health of the manufacturing sector. The PMI is based on five major indicators: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries and the employment environment. The purpose of the PMI is to provide information about current business conditions to company decision makers, analysts and purchasing managers.
The information to produce the PMI is gathered using monthly surveys sent to purchasing executives at approximately 300 companies. A PMI of more than 50 represents expansion of the manufacturing sector when compared to the previous month. A PMI reading under 50 represents a contraction, and a reading at 50 indicates no change.
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The competition in payments bank (PB) space has just heated up further with the entry of Jio Payments Bank Limited. A 70:30 joint venture between Reliance Industries and the State Bank of India, Jio Payments Bank will be competing against more established players like the two-year-old Airtel Payments Bank, Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma-promoted Paytm Payments Bank, which kicked off last May, and Fino Payments Bank, which followed a month later
What is Payments Bank?
A payments bank is like any other bank, but operating on a smaller scale without involving any credit risk. In simple words, it can carry out most banking operations but can’t advance loans or issue credit cards. It can accept demand deposits (up to Rs 1 lakh), offer remittance services, mobile payments/transfers/purchases and other banking services like ATM/debit cards, net banking and third party fund transfers
In September 2013, the Reserve Bank of India constituted a committee headed by Dr Nachiket Mor to study ‘Comprehensive financial services for small businesses and low income households’. The objective of the committee was to propose measures for achieving financial inclusion and increased access to financial services.
The committee submitted its report to RBI in January 2014. One of the key suggestions of the committee was to introduce specialised banks or ‘payments bank’ to cater to the lower income groups and small businesses so that by January 1, 2016 each Indian resident can have a global bank account.
Objective of Payments bank
The main objective of payments bank is to widen the spread of payment and financial services to small business, low-income households, migrant labour workforce in secured technology-driven environment.
With payments banks, RBI seeks to increase the penetration level of financial services to the remote areas of the country.
(GS1: Critical geographical features)
Issue: Even if humanity stops global warming in its tracks at two degress Celsius, long seen as the guardrail for a climate-safe world, Arctic sea ice will still disappear in some years, scientists have warned.
Holding the line at 1.5 degrees Celsius, however, would make a huge difference, according to two separate studies published on Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
The 197-nation Paris climate pact enjoins the world to halt warming at “well under” 2 degrees Celsius above mid-19th-century levels, and “pursue efforts” to cap the rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius. With one degrees of warming so far, Earth has already seen a crescendo of droughts, heatwaves, and storms ramped up by rising seas.
What the loss of arctic ice would mean?
The loss of Arctic sea ice is not only a consequence of global warming, but also an accelerant when millions of square kilometres of snow reflecting the Sun’s radiation back into space are replaced with dark blue ocean that absorbs it instead. Recent studies have also fingered dwindling sea ice as a likely driver of topsy-turvy winter weather that has seen days when the North Pole is tens of degrees Celsius warmer than Europe and North America.
In 2017, summer sea ice shrank to 4.64 million square km in September. That was well above the record low of 3.39 million square kilometres set in 2012, but long-term trends are unmistakable: over the last four decades, minimum sea ice extent has dropped by about 40%. The Arctic Ocean is projected to become ice-free in summer — defined as less than one million square kilometres — by mid-century unless greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly and deeply reduced.
After remaining flat for three years, global CO2 emissions in 2017 went up by 1.4%, dashing hopes that they had peaked, the International Energy Agency reported last week.
Voluntary national pledges made under the Paris pact to cut CO2 emissions, if fulfilled, would yield a 3 degrees Celsius world at best. That would transform the Arctic, which has thus far warmed at double the rate of the world as a whole
About Paris Treaty
Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reached a landmark agreement on December 12 in Paris, charting a fundamentally new course in the two-decade-old global climate effort.
Culminating a four-year negotiating round, the new treaty ends the strict differentiation between developed and developing countries that characterized earlier efforts, replacing it with a common framework that commits all countries to put forward their best efforts and to strengthen them in the years ahead. This includes, for the first time, requirements that all parties report regularly on their emissions and implementation efforts, and undergo international review.
The agreement and a companion decision by parties were the key outcomes of the conference, known as the 21st session of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, or COP 21. Together, the Paris Agreement and the accompanying COP decision:
- Reaffirm the goal of limiting global temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius, while urging efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees;
- Establish binding commitments by all parties to make “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), and to pursue domestic measures aimed at achieving them;
- Commit all countries to report regularly on their emissions and “progress made in implementing and achieving” their NDCs, and to undergo international review;
- Commit all countries to submit new NDCs every five years, with the clear expectation that they will “represent a progression” beyond previous ones;
- Reaffirm the binding obligations of developed countries under the UNFCCC to support the efforts of developing countries, while for the first time encouraging voluntary contributions by developing countries too;
- Extend the current goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year in support by 2020 through 2025, with a new, higher goal to be set for the period after 2025;
- Extend a mechanism to address “loss and damage” resulting from climate change, which explicitly will not “involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation;”
- Require parties engaging in international emissions trading to avoid “double counting;” and
- Call for a new mechanism, similar to the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol, enabling emission reductions in one country to be counted toward another country’s NDC.
Issue: Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered the farthest individual star ever seen – an enormous blue stellar body nicknamed Icarus located over halfway across the universe.
The star, harboured in a very distant spiral galaxy, is so far away that its light has taken nine billion years to reach Earth. It appears to us as it did when the universe was about 30 per cent of its current age.
About Hubble Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990 and remains in operation. Although not the first space telescope, Hubble is one of the largest and most versatile, and is well known as both a vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy. The HST is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble, and is one of NASA’s Great Observatories, along with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.
With a 2.4-meter (7.9 ft) mirror, Hubble’s four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared spectra. Hubble’s orbit outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere allows it to take extremely high-resolution images, with substantially lower background light than ground-based telescopes. Hubble has recorded some of the most detailed visible light images ever, allowing a deep view into space and time. Many Hubble observations have led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, such as accurately determining the rate of expansion of the universe.
The HST was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) selects Hubble’s targets and processes the resulting data, while the Goddard Space Flight Center controls the spacecraft
Its scientific successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is scheduled for launch in May 2020
‘Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)’
(GS3: Multilateral institutions)
Issue: Dr. Vishwapati Trivedi, former Secretary, Ministry of Shipping said that India has a huge potential and entrepreneurship for development of ports infrastructure in the country. He was delivering the Key Note Address at two day lead-up Conference in order to build-up the momentum for the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on the theme of “Enhancing Port and Coastal Infrastructure: A Primer on Potential Areas” in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. The bank currently has 64 member states while another 20 are prospective members for a total of 84 approved members and was proposed as an initiative by the government of China.The initiative gained support from 37 regional and 20 non-regional Prospective Founding Members (PFM), all of which have signed the Articles of Agreement that form the legal basis for the bank. The bank started operation after the agreement entered into force on 25 December 2015, after ratifications were received from 10 member states holding a total number of 50% of the initial subscriptions of the Authorized Capital Stock. Major economies that are not members include Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, and the United States.
The United Nations has addressed the launch of AIIB as having potential for “scaling up financing for sustainable development” for the concern of global economic governance.The capital of the bank is $100 billion, equivalent to 2⁄3 of the capital of the Asian Development Bank and about half that of the World Bank.
The bank was proposed by China in 2013 and the initiative was launched at a ceremony in Beijing in October 2014.
India is also a member of AIIB
(GS3: Science and Technology)
Issue: As per record of Narcotics Control Bureau, four cases were registered in the period 2015 to 2017 by various Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, in which ‘Dark Net’ was used for sale and purchase of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
What is Dark net?
A darknet (or dark net) is any overlay network that can be accessed only with specific software, configurations, or authorization, often using non-standard communication protocols and ports. Two typical darknet types are friend-to-friend networks (usually used for file sharing with a peer-to-peer connection) and privacy networks such as Tor.
The reciprocal term for an encrypted darknet is clearnet or surface web when referring to search engine indexable content
As of 2015, “The Darknet” is often used interchangeably with the dark web due to the quantity of hidden services on Tor’s darknet. The term is often inaccurately used interchangeably with the deep web due to Tor’s history as a platform that could not be search-indexed. Mixing uses of both these terms has been described as inaccurate, with some commentators recommending the terms be used in distinct fashions
Darknets in general may be used for various reasons, such as:
- Computer crime (cracking, file corruption etc.)
- Protecting dissidents from political reprisal
- File sharing (personal files, pornography, confidential files, illegal or counterfeit software etc.)
- To better protect the privacy rights of citizens from targeted and mass surveillance
- Sale of restricted goods on darknet markets
- Whistle-blowing and news leaks
- Purchase or sale of illicit or illegal goods or services
- Circumvent network censorship and content-filtering systems, or to bypass restrictive firewall-policies.
- Exercising human rights such as the right to speak or contract free from commercial or state interference.
- Avoiding emotional battery (crime) such as that may be inflicted as a result of neuromarketing.
- Refusing to consent to surveillance on communications networks where no right to consent is formally recognized or honored between the Internet Service Provider and the end user
Issue: Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Shri Nitin Gadkari has said that over 9829 kilometres National Highways were constructed during the year 2017-18. This represents 20 per cent growth over the last year, when 8231 kilometres were constructed. 17055 kilometres road length was awarded in the year, against 15948 kilometres last year. Expenditure of Rs 1,16,324 crore was incurred on construction of National Highways during the year 2017-18.
The Minister also announced that the work on construction of 14-lane highway from Delhi to Dasna, under the ambitious Delhi-Meerut Highway project, will be completed in record time of 15 months, against the targeted 30 months. A cycle track of 2.5 metres on both sides of the highway is a unique feature. Two new 4-lane bridges on both sides of the existing major bridge on river Yamuna will convert it to a 16-lane bridge. This is the first bridge in the country to have vertical gardens with solar system and drip irrigation.
What are vertical gardens?
A green wall is a wall partially or completely covered with greenery that includes a growing medium, such as soil or a substrate. Most green walls also feature an integrated water delivery system. A green wall is also known as a living wall or vertical garden. It provides insulation to keep the building’s inside temperature consistent.
(GS1: Indian Geography)
Issue: Monsoon in India is likely to be normal with no chances of drought this year, private forecaster Skymet said on Wednesday, bringing relief to the country.
The forecaster said there were 5 per cent chances of excess rainfall that is more than 110 percent of long-period average (LPA).
The average, or normal, rainfall in the country is defined between 96 and 104 per cent of a 50-year average for the entire four-month monsoon season. If it is normal, the country will record 887 mm for the four-month period from June to September.
Normal rainfall in the country is critical for rice, cane, corn, cotton and soybean cultivation.
However, the agency said key monsoon months of July (97 per cent) and August (96 per cent) would see “below normal” rains. The two months, which bring in half the monsoon rains, are critical for a good crop harvest.
About Indian Monsoons
Indian monsoon, the most prominent of the world’s monsoon systems, which primarily affects India and its surrounding water bodies. It blows from the northeast during cooler months and reverses direction to blow from the southwest during the warmest months of the year. This process brings large amounts of rainfall to the region during June and July.
At the Equator the area near India is unique in that dominant or frequent westerly winds occur at the surface almost constantly throughout the year; the surface easterlies reach only to latitudes near 20° N in February, and even then they have a very strong northerly component. They soon retreat northward, and drastic changes take place in the upper-air circulation. This is a time of transition between the end of one monsoon and the beginning of the next. Late in March the high-sun season reaches the Equator and moves farther north. With it go atmospheric instability, convectional (that is, rising and turbulent) clouds, and rain. The westerly subtropical jet stream still controls the flow of air across northern India, and the surface winds are north-easterlies.
Monsoon onset and early developments
As the high-sun season (that is, the Northern Hemisphere summer) moves northward during April, India becomes particularly prone to rapid heating because the highlands to the north protect it from any incursions of cold air. There are three distinct areas of relative upper tropospheric warmth—namely, (1) above the southern Bay of Bengal, (2) above the Plateau of Tibet, and (3) across the trunks of the various peninsulas that are relatively dry during this time. These three areas combine to form a vast heat-source region. The relatively warm area above the southern Bay of Bengal occurs mostly at the 500–100-millibar level. (This atmospheric pressure region typically occurs at elevations between 5,500 and 16,100 metres [18,000 and 53,000 feet] but may vary according to changes in heating and cooling.) It does not appear at a lower level and is probably caused by the release of condensation heat (associated with the change from water vapour to liquid water) at the top of towering cumulonimbus clouds along the advancing intertropical convergence. In contrast, a heat sink appears over the southern Indian Ocean as the relatively cloud-free air cools by emitting long-wavelength radiation. Monsoon winds at the surface blow from heat sink to heat source. As a result, by May the southwest monsoon is well-established over Sri Lanka, an island off the southeastern tip of the Indian peninsula.
Also in May, the dry surface of Tibet (above 4,000 metres [13,100 feet]) absorbs and radiates heat that is readily transmitted to the air immediately above. At about 6,000 metres (19,700 feet) an anticyclonic cell arises, causing a strong easterly flow in the upper troposphere above northern India. The subtropical jet stream suddenly changes its course to the north of the anticyclonic ridge and the highlands, though it may occasionally reappear southward of them for very brief periods. This change of the upper tropospheric circulation above northern India from westerly jet to easterly flow coincides with a reversal of the vertical temperature and pressure gradients between 600 and 300 millibars. On many occasions the easterly wind aloft assumes jet force. It anticipates by a few days the “burst,” or onset, of the surface southwesterly monsoon some 1,500 km (900 miles) farther south, with a definite sequential relationship, although the exact cause is not known. Because of India’s inverted triangular shape, the land is heated progressively as the sun moves northward. This accelerated spread of heating, combined with the general direction of heat being transported by winds, results in a greater initial monsoonal activity over the Arabian Sea (at late springtime), where a real frontal situation often occurs, than over the Bay of Bengal. The relative humidity of coastal districts in the Indian region rises above 70 percent, and some rain occurs. Above the heated land, the air below 1,500 metres (5,000 feet) becomes unstable, but it is held down by the overriding easterly flow. This does not prevent frequent thunderstorms from occurring in late May.
During June the easterly jet becomes firmly established at 150 to 100 millibars, an atmospheric pressure region typically occurring at elevations between 13,700 and 16,100 metres (45,000 and 53,000 feet). It reaches its greatest speed at its normal position to the south of the anticyclonic ridge, at about 15° N from China through India. In Arabia it decelerates and descends to the middle troposphere (3,000 metres [9,800 feet]). A stratospheric belt of very cold air, analogous to the one normally found above the intertropical convergence near the Equator, occurs above the anticyclonic ridge, across southern Asia at 30°–40° N and above the 500-millibar level (6,000 metres [19,700 feet]). These upper-air features that arise so far away from the Equator are associated with the surface monsoon and are absent when there is no monsoonal flow. The position of the easterly jet controls the location of monsoonal rains, which occur ahead and to the left of the strongest winds and also behind them and to the right. The surface flow, however, is a strong, southwesterly, humid, and unstable wind that brings humidities of more than 80 percent and heavy squally showers that are the “burst” of the monsoon. The overall pattern of the advance follows a frontal alignment, but local episodes may differ considerably. The amount of rain is variable from year to year and place to place.
Most spectacular clouds and rain occur against the Western Ghats in India, where the early monsoonal airstream piles up against the steep slopes, then recedes, and piles up again to a greater height. Each time it pushes thicker clouds upward until wind and clouds roll over the barrier and, after a few brief spells of absorption by the dry inland air, cascade toward the interior. The windward slopes receive 2,000 to 5,000 mm (80 to 200 inches) of rain in the monsoon season.
Various factors, especially topography, combine to make up a complex regional pattern. Oceanic air flowing toward India below 6,000 metres (19,700 feet) is deflected in accordance with the Coriolis effect. The converging moist oncoming stream becomes unstable over the hot land and is subject to rapid convection. Towering cumulonimbus clouds rise thousands of metres, producing violent thunderstorms and releasing latent heat in the surrounding air. As a result, the upper tropospheric warm belt migrates northwestward from the ocean to the land. The main body of air above 9,000 metres (29,500 feet) maintains a strong easterly flow.
Later, in June and July, the monsoon is strong and well-established to a height of 6,000 metres (less in the far north), with occasional thickening to 9,000 metres. Weather conditions are cloudy, warm, and moist all over India. Rainfall varies between 400 and 500 mm (16 and 20 inches), but topography introduces some extraordinary differences. On the southern slopes of the Khasi Hills at only 1,300 metres (4,300 feet), where the moist airstreams are lifted and overturned, the village of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya state receives an average rainfall of 2,730 mm (107 inches) in July, with record totals of 897 mm (35 inches) in 24 hours in July 1915, more than 9,000 mm (354 inches) in July 1861, and 16,305 mm (642 inches) in the monsoon season of 1899. Over the Ganges valley the monsoon, deflected by the Himalayan barrier, becomes a southeasterly airflow. By then the upper tropospheric belt of warmth from condensation has moved above northern India, with an oblique bias. The lowest pressures prevail at the surface.
It is mainly in July and August that waves of low pressure appear in the body of monsoonal air. Fully developed depressions appear once or twice per month. They travel from east to west more or less concurrently with high-level easterly waves and bursts of speed from the easterly jet, causing a local strengthening of the low-level monsoonal flow. The rainfall consequently increases and is much more evenly distributed than it was in June. Some of the deeper depressions become tropical cyclones before they reach the land, and these bring torrential rains and disastrous floods
By August the intensity and duration of sunshine have decreased, temperatures begin to fall, and the surge of southwesterly air diminishes spasmodically almost to a standstill in the northwest. Cherrapunji still receives over 2,000 mm (79 inches) of rainfall at this time, however. In September, dry, cool, northerly air begins to circle the west side of the highlands and spread over northwestern India. The easterly jet weakens, and the upper tropospheric easterlies move much farther south. Because the moist southwesterlies at lower levels are much weaker and variable, they are soon pushed back. The rainfall becomes extremely variable over most of the region, but showers are still frequent in the southeastern areas and over the Bay of Bengal.
Note: Complete clarity on the concept of Indian Monsoon is a must for an UPSC aspirant. Kindly do not neglect this topic